The Best Man Holiday

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Mia Sullivan (Monica Calhoun), wife of Lance Sullivan (Morris Chestnut), has written letters requesting the old gang’s join them for Christmas: Harper Stewart (Taye Diggs) and his almost-nine-month-pregnant wife Robyn (Sanaa Lathan), Julian Murch (Harold Perrineau) and wife Candace Sparks (Regina Hall), her best friend Jordan Armstrong (Nia Long) and boyfriend Brian McDonald (Eddie Cibrian), Quentin “Q” Spivey (Terrence Howard), and Shelby Taylor (Melissa De Sousa). All of the friends arrive at the house, the first time they’ve come together in 14 years, and the celebration begins. At dinner, the old friends catch up with each other while tensions grow between Shelby and Candace.

Years after Harper’s debut novel, he is struggling with writer’s block, financial difficulties, and pressure from his publisher to come up with newer and better material for his next book. He has also been recently relieved of his faculty position at New York University, further complicating the couple’s financial position. He had kept all this from Robyn, as she is finally pregnant with their first child after years of expensive fertility treatments and because the baby, at almost full-term, is in breech position. His agent suggests he write a biography on his estranged friend, Lance, who is set to retire from football; he argues that Harper exploit their friendship because Lance’s recent decision to retire is timed perfectly for Harper to end his troubles. Harper reluctantly agrees and keeps the biography a secret. On the other hand, the Murch family (which now includes two daughters) seems to be doing well. Julian having opened the school that he has worked hard to establish, with his wife, former stripper Candace (who has kept her maiden name) as his head of admissions. His main donor, however, abruptly ends his relationship with the school and Julian: he has been made aware of Candace’s past and will not risk his reputation as a man of high morals. It is then that Julian finds a YouTube video of his wife stripping and accepting money for sex at a fraternity party. He confides in Q and shows him part of the video. Shelby is living the life she has always dreamed of: as a cast member of a popular The Real Housewives television show franchise, she is now a prominent and notorious reality television star and part of the social elite. Robyn is still insecure with regards to Harper and Jordan’s friendship. Q is now a successful brand manager and heavily connected to prominent celebrities.

After arriving at the Sullivan’s, Harper notices Mia’s dramatic weight loss but brushes it off and focuses on the reunion and on gathering information about Lance for the autobiography.

The next day, Brian says goodbye to Jordan and leaves for his family’s annual Christmas gathering in Vermont. As he leaves, Jordan tells him that, while she loves him, she does not need him. Harper, Q, and Julian go to the grocery store while Lance is at a team meeting and Harper’s credit card is declined. Q shows concern, but Harper denies having money problems. After dinner that night, the men dance and lip-sync to “Can You Stand the Rain” for the ladies to great response. All of the couples in the house have sex that night, while Q sends risque photographs of himself to Shelby. Harper goes down to the kitchen, where he and Jordan make some small talk, and Jordan says she knows that Harper is writing Lance’s biography.

As Harper heads back to bed, he finds Mia throwing up blood. Mia reveals to Harper that she was diagnosed with cancer more than a year ago and is dying. After Lance walks in on the two talking, Mia explains to Lance that Harper knows. They both ask Harper to keep the condition a secret. At breakfast the next morning, Q and Shelby accidentally switch phones and Shelby finds the Candace video on Q’s phone. She tries to use it to coerce Julian to resume his previous relationship with her, but Julian rebuffs her advances. Not long afterwards, Candace loses patience with Shelby and confronts her, which leads to a physical altercation between the two in front of Shelby’s daughter, after which Candace leaves the house with her and Julian’s daughters. Lance drives the men to his football practice, with Julian and Q starting a fight in the backseat, but Harper intervenes before it degenerates further. While at the practice, Q cynically explains to Julian that such a video comes with marrying a stripper.

Back at the house the ladies are preparing for a spa day when Mia collapses while trying to hang a Christmas ornament. Robyn and Jordan text Harper for Lance and the men to quickly return to the house, forcing Harper to tell the rest of the friends about Mia’s illness. As they leave, the friends all embrace Lance.

Back at the house, everyone spends time with Mia. While Harper is wrapping gifts, Lance approaches him and the two reminisce about their college days and seem to overcome their past differences. The next day, the gang volunteer at a shelter, with Q as a grudging Santa Claus. Harper and Lance seem to be as close as they were in the old days. Afterwards, Lance stumbles across Harper’s IPad and journal in Mia’s purse, and a mock book cover for his unauthorized biography on the tablet. Lance angrily confronts Harper and tells him to stay away from him and his family. Mia tries to calm Lance down to no avail. He takes Mia home, leaving Q and Harper the last two to leave the shelter. The two talk and Harper finally breaks down and admits the truth of his situation.

Back at the Sullivans’, Lance is still heated over the biography when Mia confronts him. Mia challenges Lance to acknowledge the truth. She is to blame just as much as Harper is for the longtime feud between the two men. She reveals that she slept with Harper (see The Best Man) even though she knew how much it would hurt Lance because she was sick of Lance cheating on her. Mia then takes off her wig, forcing Lance to also acknowledge the severity of her condition. Outside, meanwhile, Robyn is going through some of Mia’s old baby things when Candace returns with the kids. Candace tells Julian that she regrets that one time she ever gave “extra favors” to a client and they reconcile. The household gathers around the fireplace to listen to the children sing Christmas carols. Harper and Q return, with Harper reconciles with Robyn (who had witnessed an intimate moment between Harper and Jordan that weekend).

The next day is Christmas and Lance’s big game. Brian returns to be with Jordan and the two also reconcile. The women watch the game together as a family in Mia and Lance’s bedroom, while the men go to the game. At the game, Lance starts a troublesome first half. Mia calls Harper to speak to Lance, inspiring him to ultimately break the all-time rushing record in a game-winning performance. After the game, the men rush home (courtesy of a police escort) in order for Lance to say goodbye to Mia before she dies.

At the funeral service, everyone but Lance is emotional. Shelby gives Julian a check for two million dollars, covering the funding gap created by the donor pull-out. All she asks for in return is a play date for their children. Inside the church, Harper gives a very heartfelt eulogy. It isn’t until after everyone leaves as Mia’s casket is lowered into the grave that Lance finally breaks down. Harper witnesses this from a distance and rushes to Lance’s aid, comforting him. Back at the house, everyone seems to have reconciled with one another after realizing what’s really important in life. Outside, Harper and Lance make up and renew their friendship–concluding a 14 year feud. Q and Shelby are shown in bed, with Q suggesting before rolling out of bed that they may have a love connection. Meanwhile, Brian tells Julian that he knows some investors who can help with the school’s funding. Robyn’s water suddenly breaks, so Lance, Harper, and Candace try to rush her to the hospital; however, they get stuck in traffic and Lance delivers the baby in the backseat of his SUV. Robyn delivers a healthy baby girl and names her Mia in honor of their deceased friend.

Ten months later, Harper and Lance are closer than ever and Harper has written Lance’s autobiography. It is also apparent that Lance is the baby’s godfather as he visits Harper and Robyn at their house in New York. Harper gets a phone call from Q and puts it on speakerphone to share the call with Lance. Q reveals to both of them that he is getting married and wants Harper to be his best man, but not before telling Harper that he better not have had sex with his soon-to-be bride.

REVIEW:

I know the holidays are over and this is a Christmas movie, but I’ve been trying to get The Best Man Holiday reviewed for months now. Does that mean this is a great film that will surpass everything else I’ve seen and will see and be the best flick ever? I seriously doubt it, but I’m hoping it will at least offer some entertainment on this chilly January Saturday. Seriously, how is it 30 degrees in south Louisiana?!?

What is this about?

Set 13 years after the events of The Best Man, this comedy sequel picks up as the story’s original characters — whose lives have taken some odd turns since — gather for a mirthful reunion.

What did I like?

Thanks for the reminder. Usually a sequel comes out within a normal span of no more than 5 yrs, depending on the genre, but this one made us wait a whole 13 yrs to get an update on the characters’ lives from The Best Man. Why is that? I suspect that they hadn’t initially planned on making a sequel, but the studio opened the checkbook and here we are. Think back 13 yrs. Can you remember much of anything? Personally, I can’t, so when this film opened with flashbacks to the original film, I found that to me a nice touch. True, most that have interest in this picture will have seen the original, but I question whether they can remember the events as vividly as they would had this film been released a year or two after the original.

When things get too heavy. There is a tragic plot twist that will tug on your heartstrings. I won’t spoil it, but it I will say that it is perhaps the best part of this film in the way they choose to slowly bring that element in without over doing it with a lot melodrama. Speaking of drama, when things in this picture start to get too heavy someone is always there to drop a one-line or do something to lighten the mood, usually Terrence Howard. For some this can get annoying, but for those of us that didn’t come into this wanting to watch a drama, then this is just what we needed.

No race. Unless you’re blind, you’ve more than likely noticed that this is a film made up of an entirely African-American cast, save for a few white faces, one of which has a part in the plot. Here’s what is significant about that. There is no “black foolishness” like you would see in a Tyler Perry movie or in something like Soul Plane. These are highly successful, upstanding members of the community. If anything, it would be better to think of something like The Cosby Show, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, or other shows of their ilk. The only time race is brought up is in passing because of the interracial relationship between Eddie Cibrian and Nia Long’s characters. Showing how much times have changed, that ends up being nothing more than some good-hearted joking, rather than a big issue. I fully appreciate this film’s omitting of race and just going on like it is just another film, because that’s what it is.

What didn’t I like?

Soap. I’m sure other reviews have said this, but with the heavy-handed drama that this film was pushing on its audience, it felt a bit like a soap opera. The only thing missing was some guy running around with no shirt on for no apparent reason. The women all got pissed at their men for the most trivial of things or because they walked in on what they assumed was something more than what it was or because they were ashamed of their past and kept that anger for a good chunk of the film. The aforementioned tragedy just screams soap opera, especially when we find out that the resolution happens on Christmas Day. For me, I can live with some of the soapy-ness because it is what separates this film from its contemporaries, but toning it down wouldn’t hurt, that’s for sure.

Get with the times. As someone who is not a fan of technology, I was able to relate to the film when it brought up not tweeting (something that I still haven’t gotten into), using an iPad, etc. However, that is all that is did, bring these things up. A couple of mentions happen later in the picture, but it isn’t like these are related incidents. I feel that it would have been better had the film took the ball and went with this angle. There could have been some real comedy gold there.

Giants. The NFL is very protective about its teams, logos, etc. This is why in films where there are professional football teams, they are usually made up, unless it is a biopic about someone who played in the league. What confuses me about this film is that Morris Chestnutt’s (who seems to always be playing a football player) character plays for the New York Giants. Their uniforms look very similar to the real thing, but not quite. In the big game, they are playing the Atlanta Falcons. Ok, those uniforms look more like the University of Louisiana-Monroe, but they still use the real team name of the Falcons. I just found it distracting being an NFL fan.

Well, The Best Man Holiday surprised me. I was expecting to hit play on this and be asleep about 30 minutes or so in, but I was actually invested in the whole film. Mixing comedy, tragedy, drama, and that warm holiday feeling, plus a cliffhanger for what is sure to be a third film was a stroke of genius, as was the New Edition lip-sync which I’m sure the ladies watching this will more than enjoy. Again, I have to say the over use of the drama in this film in every way they could was just too much and ruined the film for me. Still, I think this is something most will enjoy, so I give it a high recommendation.

4 out of 5 stars

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